Ken Slesarik today

Today it is my pleasure to introduce Ken Slesarik of Phoenix, Arizona as my fifth poet in the Summer Guest Reader Series. The invitation is for readers to post their picture with a poem and or an article of 500 words or fewer on subjects about writing or children’s literatre. In Ken’s case, he has provided both an article and a poem at the same time. Thank you Ken!

And now, read on.

By Ken Slesarik

It was the day after my 40th birthday and what should have been a peaceful transition into middle age for me began a five month ordeal. I woke just after 6am with a tremendous pain and ringing in my left ear. Scared and confused I did what most grown men would have done and called my mother. Mom suggested I take something for the pain and get myself to the emergency room.

After an almost seven hour wait the doctor examined my ear, said the drum was completely shattered and asked if I listen to extremely loud music or have been on the receiving end of any blows to the ear. I explained that I went to bed in slight discomfort and woke in extreme pain. Leaving the hospital I was optimistic. With prescriptions for pain and infection in hand I promptly scheduled a follow up visit with a specialist.

The medications I took faithfully and it’s true much of the pain was gone but there was one thing that the meds couldn’t touch. Have you ever heard the sweet sound of a teapot whistling? It’s quite pleasant for about the first twenty minutes. You see, I had a constant, often loud ringing in my ear, never ceasing, twenty four hours of every day, every moment, and every second.

Within a week of my emergency room visit I noticed a slight pimple on the left side of my face, near my ear. In a few short hours it grew to the size of a small egg and protruded from my face. This resulted in another hospital visit where the doctor enquired if I had been taking my antibiotic as prescribed.

The next four months were the worst in my life as several new and reoccurring infections popped up in various places on my body and gradually the pain meds did not work as well. It seemed as if I was on an endless cycle of doctor visits and stronger antibiotics. as the doctors agreed that they could not even think about reconstructing my eardrum until the infections were under control.

I became depressed; sleep deprived, and lost weight. For the first time in my life I could empathize with the person who might consider taking their own life. Before this time I would think such a person was weak and if I wasn’t raising a son who had already lost his mother to suicide I would have seriously considered that option.

The ringing was simply dreadful and I was slowly losing hope as I tried to function in my new job as a special education teacher. Most of my sixth grade students had behavior issues to begin with and took full advantage of the fact that I could not hear out of my left side. It was pure torture.

After a few months my mother came down from San Diego to care for me and I would often cry, curse or lose my temper. I remember being constantly agitated and looking for a fight.

The thing that transpired next literally changed my life. During a particularly painful weekend of anger and self pity my sister handed me some paper and a pen and asked me to write a poem about our dad as I would occasionally write family poems and other silly rhymes before my ear woes.

After snapping at her I decided to try. The next forty minutes went by fast as I wrote three of the most crappy poems you can imagine as well as several short rhymes. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I realized I had been so engrossed in the creative process that I was completely detached from the ringing, that awful, awful ringing. I remember thanking God as it was truly a beautiful moment and a short reprieve in over four months of suffering and chaos. It gave me hope, something to cling to and a little joy amongst the pain.

Within days of this one of the specialists recommended more tests and blood work and a few days later I got the call with my results. It seemed I had contracted an extremely rare staph infection quite likely during my first ER visit. This infection was fast spreading and non-responsive to any known antibiotics but it did respond to one type of medication. So I took that round of meds, all the infections went away and they reconstructed my eardrum with skin from my canal.

It’s been over four years since that defining moment and the best I can describe it is that my brain associates so much pleasure and the absence of pain to writing rhyming poetry. I set a goal that weekend to always improve, write at least one respectable poem a week and at least one a month that would make Shel Silverstein proud.

By K. Thomas Slesarik

Ted the cannibalistic tick
is not so good at arithmetic.
He eats those ticks, yes quite a few,
then loses count before he’s through.
It’s so uncouth to eat your kind,
but don’t tell Ted, he doesn’t mind.

Dear Ted, my pleading don’t ignore,
it’s fine to be a carnivore
but this advice it should suffice,
learn to count and switch to lice.

22 comments on “Ken Slesarik today

  1. HI Ken,
    Great intro of yourself and great poem, it gave me a laugh! hope you keep to your plan and some day you might just publish a book, Ill be first in line to buy that book.
    Do you have a website that you write poems on?

  2. The writing process can be a great healer. Thank you for sharing your story, Ken. It’s always a pleasure to read your poetry, but the personal history reminds me of the power in words. I hope you’ll soon be reaching children with a published book of clever poems!

  3. Your poems always make me laugh and this one is no exception. Your story, however, makes me realize how dedicated you are. Glad that you are part of the Phoenix writing community.

  4. Ken, your story brought tears to my eyes. I’m sorry for your struggle, but I’m so glad it led you to something that you truly love, and that the rest of us can enjoy. I’m sure Shel is proud.
    Did you know he was also a successful country song writer? He wrote “A Boy Named Sue” and “Put Another Log on the Fire.”
    You never know, maybe George Strait is looking for a ditty about parasites…
    Thanks for the story and all of your wonderful poems. Can’t wait to see you published!

  5. Loved your story Ken, very touching. Thanks for sharing. As usual, love, love, love the poem too! Ted is too funny and another example of the quirky, clever, entertaining humor, that is so you!

  6. Wonderful words yet again from you. Both story and poem. You have been through a lot, but yet amazing things have come from it, like your writing. Odd how sometimes struggles and life changes can bring out the best of talents. Thank you for sharing something so personal! I know how hard it can be! 🙂

  7. For you folks in the Phoenix area, next time you go to the Burton Barr Central Library, check out my poem sandblasted in the sidewalk in the Children’s Garden. My words may not be in stone, but concrete’s not too bad.


  8. Enjoyed reading how you become a poet for it reminded me how many of us get through pain and disappointments by writng. Laughter and writing is great medicene. Thank you Ken. I see you have a lot of friends that support you -that is extra special.

  9. Thanks for the smile. Your poetry always makes me happy. Well, sometimes disturbed or surprised.

    Thank you for sharing the beginning of your journey, it was heartfelt and reveals another layer of your story.

  10. Ken, as I’ve said before, you’re the next Shel Silverstein. Your poems are such fun. Quirky and a joy. Guaranteed to crack a smile in the face of adult and child. Go for it. Spread the joy.

  11. Just got back from vacation to find this note in my inbox to find you here. Great post. Loved it, but then again I’m a HUGE fan. Debbie

  12. Cannibalistic tick… Oh, only you can find those lovely joys in the childhood of little boys. HAHAHA!

    I always love your stuff. Glad to see I am a voice among many who sees the Shel Silverstein in you!

    These are the kind of poems you write that I WANT TO SEE IN A PICTURE BOOK! Please, anyone with a little boy would be rolling over laughing every time they read it! You’ll be listed all over

    Funny how those trials lead us to something better and brighter than we could have imagined. ;^)

  13. Your story made me tear up a bit, you survived Ken, you survived even before the illness was cured, you beat it and that part put a smile on my face….. I can’t say you found poetry, I think you were always a poet from birth and that day it came out… You’re a great writer, I enjoyed your story and your poem.

  14. dang man great stuff i remember when i had u for driver ed u help me get my license.. but any way hope the best for u keep up the deep words

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